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Magnificent 7

Nigel Starmer-Smith
Thursday, May 03, 2012

TV commentator Nigel Starmer-Smith picks seven players to look out for over the next two weekends of HSBC Sevens World Series action in Glasgow and London.

DJ Forbes, New Zealand

What a leader! DJ celebrates his 50th tournament appearance in Glasgow this weekend and in my view he's been the player of the season. He first appeared in Wellington in 2006, a late arrival on the rugby scene since he didn't take up the game until his last year at Kelston Boys High School. He's not just a great ball-winner, he's also powerful in contact, mobile and a great in support, as his 93 career tries show. Over and above that, though, he has also been his country's outstanding captain of recent years, who sets the standard for the squad that Gordon Tietjens demands.

Metuisela Talebula, Fiji

A rookie on the circuit with just six events to his name, Talebula has swiftly made his mark with 20 tries and 62 conversions in no time. He's certainly got the skills and background as a rover/ fly -half, being a product of Lelean School, from whence came Waisale Serevi. He's also the nephew of the great Apolosi Satala.

Shannon Walker, Australia

You sometimes wonder where Michael O'Connor finds his youthful stars! In the case of Shannon Walker he didn't appear in a rugby union game until last August, but was picked up from Rugby League's Gold Coast Titans to make made his HSBC Sevens World Series debut in Hong Kong this March. Very quick and elusive, there may be more Walkers to come too with his four brothers and four sisters, and a daughter!

Paul Perez, Samoa

Now 25, Paul Perez made little impact as a debutant in the Wellington Seven years ago, but what a revelation he has been on his 'second coming' following the more recent recall to Las Vegas this season, where he was a key figure in Samoa's triumph at the USA Sevens. His form has continued at that level with superb performances, most recently in Hong Kong (7 tries) and in Tokyo (4 tries until injured on the second day).

James Fleming, Scotland

Scotland have a knack of lifting their game in front of their home crowd. Last year they beat Fiji in their opening game at Murrayfield; the year before they won the Plate and in 2009 so nearly made the Cup final, only losing in extra-time to South Africa in the semi. And if they're to once again find that inspiration, much may depend on the swift skills of James Fleming.

The 24-year-old from Stirling University, and now a Sevens professional, has real pace, and with Jim Thompson and John Houston now alongside him they could once again create a decisive impact from Scotland against one or two of the most-favoured teams.

Pablo Feijoo, Spain

It was very much thanks to their captain, Feijoo, that Spain claimed their place as a core team for next season in the exciting qualifying tournament in Hong Kong. Like so many of Spain's leading rugby players, he has doubled up as a rugby international in both Sevens and 15s. His first appearance in Sevens was as long ago as 2001 and since then he has notched up more than 50 caps in the 15-man game. His leadership was critical in the heat of the qualifying competition, and maybe he learned a lot about Sevens last year, while playing alongside Samoa star Uale Mai at Spain's El Salvador club!

Aderito Esteves, Portugal

In Hong Kong we saw a double triumph for the Iberian peninsula, with Portugal joining Spain (and Canada) in coming through the qualifying event for core status next season.

Portugal's success owed much to the ebullient performance of Aderito Esteves. There was a time, in his early years on the Sevens scene, when he seemed to blow hot and cold. Now, at 26, he has matured into a direct and formidable game-breaker.

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